President Biden has been clear: he’s itching to attack Republicans for “wanting to cut Medicare.” But he’s running into a problem: his own administration rolled out a little-noticed rules change that’s poised to slash benefits for millions of retirees across the country. The change could jeopardize his own standing with a crucial voting bloc and could put down-ballot Democrats in electoral peril.
Biden has used everything from the pages of the New York Times to his State of the Union’s teleprompter to accuse Republicans of wanting to slash benefits to seniors who’ve paid into the retirement fund.
“If the MAGA Republicans get their way, seniors will pay higher out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs and insulin, the deficit will be bigger, and Medicare will be weaker,” Biden wrote in last Wednesday’s Times, warning that “the only winner under their plan will be Big Pharma.”
But, it turns out that Biden’s rules changes to Medicare Advantage could cost America’s seniors millions of dollars in benefits; one estimate expects that every senior who’s paid into the program will lose up to $540 a year.
To be fair, Biden has been helped by a now-shelved plan from Senator Rick Scott that would have ended all federal programs after five years, including Medicare. That plan now no longer exists — so it’s not exactly clear what Biden is hammering away at. In fact, he’d be on firmer ground to attack Republicans for having no plans to fix Medicare than to accuse them of wanting to cut it.
But Biden is the president, and his administration is betraying the very pledge that he made that he won’t be “cutting a penny in benefits” when it comes to Medicare. In fact, his rules change alone could cost him dearly with his fellow senior citizens as he potentially heads towards a reelection campaign.
Biden’s administration rolling out haphazard plans without letting his fellow Democrats know is becoming par for the course. From crime policy to immigration policy, and now to entitlements policy, Joe Biden’s White House and Democrats on the Hill are out of sync.
The fissures between the White House and Democrats in Congress most recently became pronounced over crime and home rule of the nation’s capital. Almost every House Democrat voted against Washington DC’s progressive council to support radical changes to the city’s criminal code that would, critics argued, turn the city into a real-life version of The Purge.
How did Biden thank them for sticking their necks out? By shifting his position and coming out forcefully against the DC City Council — complicating the Democrats’ unified support for DC statehood. At least in this case, Biden gave Senate Democrats a chance to show Americans that they are siding against criminals. No such luck for their House counterparts.
Following the failure on the crime bill, one House Democrat said that “people are rip-roarin’ pissed,” and that Biden “is going to have a much harder time asking people to take tough votes after this.”
But there was optimism in the party that this would never happen again. One Democratic chief of staff even said that while House Democrats are “highly frustrated,” there’s hope that the White House will “learn from it and it doesn’t happen again.”
Well, that hasn’t worked out — and Biden’s failure to communicate gave the National Republican Campaign Committee all the ammo it needed to go on offense with an ad campaign targeting over a dozen Democrats who “voted to support reduced sentences for violent crimes.”
Biden followed this major miscommunication over crime by doing it all over again this week on immigration. Now, Democrats are furious that he is considering resuming detentions of illegal immigrants as they cross the southern border.
All of this returns us to the major cuts Biden is proposing to Medicare Advantage. Republicans have been seizing on the Democrats’ disarray for weeks already — but the party apparatus is really sensing vulnerability with this latest miscue.
To that end, the American Action Network, or AAN, is putting its money where its mouth is: spending millions of dollars targeting both potentially vulnerable House Democrats and key committee leaders with ads urging their constituents to oppose the Medicare Advantage changes.
“In the same breath, the Biden administration promises to protect Medicare while forcing costly benefit cuts on seniors,” AAN communications director Courtney Parella told me.
At this point, Biden is averaging one major policy miscommunication with Democrats on the Hill per week. While we don’t know what the next one will be, it seems likely that a reenergized GOP will pounce once it comes.